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Charles and Camilla make it official

Nick Bird

more innocent times - Charles introduces Camilla to his favourite treeThe announcement that Charles and Camilla are finally to marry has sent the media into a frenzy of excitement mostly unmatched by the population at large.

Reporters have scrutinised the couple's long history, every carefully choreographed appearance, the first public kiss and all manner of such historical banalities. Learned commentators have been dusted down to discuss the constitutional implications and the niceties of royal protocol. The question of what title the future Mrs Windsor will take has played on historians' minds to an unhealthy extent.

Such coverage will undoubtedly please the royal family more than the news earlier this week that MPs were asking uncomfortable questions about the finances of the two largest royal estates - the duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster. Between them these estates provide the Queen and Prince Charles with a private income of nearly 20 million a year.

The National Audit Office has requested to see the accounts for the first time in 700 years, which seems reasonable. However, the Duchy of Cornwall's secretary, Bertie Ross rejected the request, saying: "Any business or estate that's private should be able to choose its own audit."

Such matters will be temporarily forgotten as the party leaders rush to offer their congratulations to the happy couple, whose wedding in April will punctuate the expected general election campaign.

But how long the monarchy can endure as a bastion of inherited wealth and privilege is a question that will surely recur in political debate until such time as we assert that democracy and equality are not compatible with the Windsor family's continued reign. Each time I see a royal wedding I hope it's the last.


Steve Bell's view of Prince Charles - in the heir to the throne's own words...

Steve Bell. First published by The Guardian in November 2004.

February 2005


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